ABC News President James Goldston was caught on tape laying into his own staff on Monday, excoriating reporters — and especially chief investigative reporter Brian Ross — for getting their facts wrong in a story about Michael Flynn’s dealings with the FBI.
According to CNN, who obtained a recording of the speech, Goldston announced that Ross had been “removed” from covering any story related to President Donald Trump and that the newsroom would face a “full review” of its error.
Last week, ABC News reported that former transition official Mike Flynn struck a deal with the FBI and would testify that then-candidate Trump had instructed Flynn to contact Russian officials and establish a line of communication. The story was a huge break for ABC, and sent left-leaning activists aflight. But the story turned out to be misleading: Flynn was prepared to testify only that the Trump transition team, and the president-elect, had instructed him to reach out to members of the U.N. Security Council, which included Russia.
ABC News was forced to issue a humiliating apology, and Goldston says he fears that the story has destroyed the news network’s credibility, perhaps for decades to come.
He was . . . not subtle . . . in his remarks to staff.
“I don’t think ever in my career have I felt more rage and disappointment and frustration that I felt through this weekend and through the last half of Friday,” Goldston told the ABC newsroom.
“I don’t even know how many times we’ve talked about this, how many times we have talked about the need to get it right,” he added. “That how we have to be right and not first. About how in this particular moment, with the stakes as high as these stakes are right now, we cannot afford to get it wrong.”
Goldston also noted how badly ABC suffered in the aftermath. We “spent this weekend getting absolutely pilloried as a news division for reporting fake news,” he said. “250,000 tweets. One percent positive, 99 percent negative about this news division. Two tweets from the president.”
“If it isn’t obvious to everyone in this news division, we have taken a huge hit and we have made the job of every single person in this news division harder as a result. It’s much, much harder,” Goldston continued. “We have people in Washington who are going to bear the brunt of this today and in the days forward. Very, very, very, very unfortunate. Really, really angry about it.”
The worst part of the incident, Goldston said, was that Michael Flynn’s charging documents appeared before the story was set to air, and, had Ross and his team merely read the documents, they could have corrected their own error well before ABC World News Tonight went live.
Instead, ABC aired the story and was forced to issue a “full-blown correction” almost immediately.
Goldston has suspended Ross for four weeks without pay, but Ross’ future at the network remains uncertain, sources also told CNN.